Gertie and Bridget build a snowman
As snowflakes danced down from thick clouds, Ziggy the ghost dog had his fun trying to catch them on his tongue. Since his mouth was incorporeal, the challenge was dead on arrival, but that didn’t hinder his joy.
Bridget Mallon, one of Ziggy’s owners during his life, was bundled up against the chill. She was thrilled about the first snow of the season. With first semester finals fast approaching at Flories Boarding School, it was nice to take an afternoon off from studying.
While Bridget admired how pretty the school looked draped in snow and ice, her older sister Gertie, wrapped in layers and topped with a black magician’s hat, packed together a snowball in her hands.
Bridget turned to see how her sister was faring.
“Well?” she asked.
“It’s good,” Gertie said, tossing the snowball back and forth between her hands. “Not too wet, not too dry-”
She missed the catch, and the ball fell to the ground.
Ziggy, barking in delight, flew under the snowball to try to catch it. His attempt was, again, in vain, but he shook out his wispy fur, looked up at Gertie with his tongue hanging out, and waited in delight for the next throw.
Gertie, unfortunately, couldn’t see him at the moment. As Ziggy was a ghost, he was invisible to most living beings. Bridget, on the other hand, could still see him. Her left eye had been ruined in an accident many years ago, but because of this, it was imbued with magic, allowing her to see many things that normal eyes shouldn’t. Including ghosts.
Normally, Gertie wore an enchanted baseball cap that allowed her to see Ziggy, but as it didn’t allow for much warmth, it was currently stuffed in one of her jacket pockets. Another one of her many hats - this one a beanie - was pulled over her ears, under the top hat that didn’t keep out the chill.
“Snowman time!” Bridget said, bouncing on her toes.
Gertie grinned. “Ok, so I have a hat,” she tipped the top hat. “You have a nose…”
Bridget held up the large carrot she had been keeping in her pocket.
“Did you bring sticks and rocks?” Gertie asked.
“Uh,” Bridget said, looking on the ground beneath them. “I’ll go look for arm sticks in the woods.”
“I’ll find some pebbles,” Gertie said. “Meet back here?"
The two sisters went off. Ziggy followed Gertie, hoping for another throw of a snowball.
Bridget wandered into the sprinkling of trees at the edge of Flories Boarding School’s property. If she had kept going, and managed to circumvent the magical wall that protected the school, the trees would get taller, and thicken, and evolve into the dark woods, where creatures and magic of old histories still survived.
But not too far into the woods, she found a good sized tree branch on the ground, and then another, so she stopped to pick them up.
She was about to head back to the rendezvous point, but out of the corner of her left eye - the eye that could see things normal eyes couldn’t - Bridget saw a shimmer. She turned, and could barely make out an enchanted lump in what looked like a naturally occurring hollow in the snow. Curious, she put down her sticks slowly, not wanting to startle whatever it was, and kneeled low to the ground. When she saw no movement under the enchantment, Bridget started creeping towards what seemed to be an animal lying under an invisibility spell.
But before Bridget could get much closer, a reindog blocked her path, shaking off its conjured camouflage that had made it sparkle like ice.
Bridget had heard of reindogs before, but had never seen one up close. They were able to conceal themselves to magical levels, blending in seamlessly with their surroundings unless they moved. The reindogs looked like slim canines, with longer legs and snouts and short fluffy tails. Both males and females had horns that curled around their floppy triangular ears, and their fur changed color with the weather. The reindog standing in front of Bridget had fur that was mostly white and grey with some remaining brown patches.
Its eyes seemed soft and begging as it snuffed at Bridget’s jacket.
Bridget realized what it must have been smelling. She reached in and pulled the carrot from her pocket.
The reindog took a big bite, making the tip of the carrot poke visibly into its cheek, and went back toward the enchanted spot in the snow. Bridget followed it, and saw that there was a burrow that held another adult reindog curled up around two puppies. The youngsters almost looked like normal dogs if not for the gangliness of their legs and their stubs of tails, and sat up mewling as their parent approached.
Bridget watched with a smile as the reindog spat out the carrot for them to eat. The puppies began fighting over it, nibbling what bites they could. Satisfied with her discovery, Bridget picked up the branches and headed back to the snowman.
“Nice arms,” Gertie said with a grin. The two lower balls of snow were done, and she was working on the third.
“You’ll never guess what I saw!” Bridget said, her nose red and eyes sparkling.
Gertie held back a laugh at her sister’s enthusiasm, hefting up the last snowball to place for the snowman’s head. “Flying fish?” she joked.
Bridget laughed. “No-.”
“Hold on,” Gertie said, plopping the snowball on the snowman’s body. She placed the small stones she had found as eyes, mouth, and buttons and Bridget stuck the stick arms in place.
“Nose?” Gertie asked. Bridget pulled out the stump of the carrot that the reindog had left.
“What happened to it?” Gertie asked.
Bridget seemed ready burst. “I fed it to a reindog!”
Gertie’s eyes opened wide in wonder. “Lucky!” she said. “Much better than flying fish!”
Bridget stuck the mangled carrot nose into the snowman’s face with a triumphant thump.
“All right, now for the best part!” Gertie said, removing the top hat from her head and placing it onto the snowman’s.
The snowman’s right arm began waving.
“Hi there,” it said, though its dotted line of a mouth didn’t move. “Happy holidays!”
“I bought it online,” Gertie admitted. “I thought it’d be interesting.”
“It’s cute!” Bridget said, high-fiving the waving arm.
“Snow is fun!” the snowman said.
“Good,” Gertie said, clapping the snow off her gloves. “Because the hat is totally worthless for anything else.”
“It’s a cool addition to your collection,” Bridget pointed out.
Gertie pulled out her phone to take a video of the talking snowman.
“Hi there,” it declared. “Winter is my favorite time of year!”
Bridget suddenly saw something that wasn’t there - a flash of the future. It was a feeling she had become intimately familiar with in the years since her accident. Wind howling, snow swirling, trees falling down. And then it was gone.
The icy air was racking through her lungs, her breathing panicked. Bridget realized she was kneeling in the snow, her legs starting to go numb. Gertie was crouching in front of her, gripping one of Bridget’s hands in both of hers.
“What’d you see?” Gertie asked, reaching forward to rub the side of Bridget’s arm in comfort.
“Snowstorm,” she responded, a glint of terror in her eyes.
Gertie nodded, stood, and immediately pulled the hat off the snowman.
It just managed to get out, “Isn’t snow won-?” before freezing in place.
Ziggy barked and Bridget turned. The little family of reindogs had managed to follow her.
“No!” Bridget shouted. She could already see the darkening of the sky. “Go back! You’ll be safe in your burrow.”
“No time,” Gertie said, grabbing the carrot stump from the snowman and holding it out toward the reindogs. She whistled. “Come on! Here little reindogs, you’ll be okay!”
Ziggy yipped and tried to herd them towards the girls, but despite their magical prowess, the reindogs couldn’t see him.
They could see, and smell, the carrot however. The little puppies followed Gertie eagerly, floundering through the snow, while their parents followed along slowly, wary of the humans.
The big doors of Bridget’s dorm building were held shut by the whistling of the wind, but with a countdown and a shove, the sisters flung it open.
“Fetch!” Gertie shouted, flinging the carrot into the common room.
Barking in harmony, Ziggy and all four reindogs ran inside the building, and the girls pulled the door shut behind them as the snow started churning through the air with a vengeance.
“My roommates are going to love this,” Bridget said. She and Gertie pet the adult reindog while the others cuddled by the warm fire in the center of the common area of Bridget’s floor. Ziggy, curled up by her side, yawned in agreement.
“We’ll wait for the storm to be over and then the reindogs will be back outside,” Gertie assured her.
The puppies looked up from the fire to Bridget, their large brown eyes begging.“Ok, ok,” she said. Bridget went to the kitchen, sighing as she pulled a fresh bunch of carrots from the fridge.